Arizona (1-0) at UNLV (0-1)
Date: Saturday, Sept. 7 Time: 7:30 p.m. (PDT)
Location: Las Vegas, Nev. (Sam Boyd Stadium – 36,800)
Television Broadcast: CBS Sports Network
TV Broadcasters: Andrew Catalon (PXP), Aaron Taylor (Analyst), and Lauren Gardner (Sideline)
UA Radio: Arizona Radio Network, 1290 AM and 107.5 FM in Tucson
UA Radio Broadcasters: Brian Jeffries (pxp), Lamont Lovett (color analyst), Dana Cooper (sideline analyst)
Satellite Radio: SIRIUS 94 , XM 197
UA-UNLV Series History
All-Time: Arizona leads 1-0
First Meeting: Sept. 22, 2001 (Arizona 38, UNLV 21 at Tucson)
Last Meeting: Sept. 22, 2001 (Arizona 38, UNLV 21 at Tucson)
Streak: Arizona has won only previous meeting
Some Game Themes: Arizona hits the road for the first time ready to press its luck in the city of sin … Only the second all-time meeting between the programs, but the Wildcats hope to pick up where they left off from the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl – a 31-21 victory over BYU at Sam Boyd Stadium … Both teams will try and push the tempo offensively, but finishing drives will surely be a key … The Rebels outgained Minnesota by nearly 100 yards, but in the end managed to score on just two of four red zone tries … Capitalizing – or preventing – big plays will also be something to keep an eye on for each side … Long plays were the dagger in Minneapolis, while the Wildcats benefitted from a handful of their own big ones in Tucson … Rebel quarterback Nick Sherry, a prolific passer, spread the ball to 10 different targets last week, while Wildcat quarterback B.J. Denker, a dual-threat runner and passer, mostly stuck to the running game … Arizona anticipates having Ka’Deem Carey back in its stable of running backs after serving a suspension last week … In his place, Daniel Jenkins racked up two scores and 100 yards on the ground, setting the stage for quite a tandem in the backfield … Can Arizona’s defense build off a steady start that saw it hold Northern Arizona scoreless and under 100 yards rushing? … UNLV figures to provide a balanced attack to test how much the Wildcat defense has improved … Will the Rebels deal a winning hand or will the Wildcats maintain a perfect start for Pac-12 schools against Mountain West foes? … A stretch of five-of-seven games away from home begins for Arizona.
Last Week: Arizona christened a renovated Arizona Stadium with a convincing 35-0 shutout of in-state neighbor Northern Arizona last Friday before 53,793 fans on a showery, muggy season-opening evening … The Wildcats relied on a steady and sometimes explosive ground attack to the tune of 306 rushing yards despite consensus All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey sitting out due to a suspension … Senior tailback Daniel Jenkins picked up the slack with his first career 100-yard game (139 total), highlighted by a 91-yard second-quarter touchdown burst that checked in third in the school record books … Senior Quarterback B.J. Denker earned the start and rushed for 71 yards and a score himself, plus was quite economical as a passer with a 9-for-13, 87-yard and one touchdown effort through the air … Redshirt freshman quarterback Javelle Allen saw his first collegiate action in the fourth quarter and used the opportunity to display his playmaking ability, which produced a 61-yard touchdown run for the final score … Otherwise, it was a night for the defense which stymied a scrappy Lumberjack offense that mustered 270 total yards, but a pair of missed field goals kept it scoreless … The shutout was the second in the last two seasons – both against FCS schools – for the Wildcats, who showcased added depth and some new faces … Junior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant was a pest throughout, tying for the game high with seven tackles – one for loss – and a pair of interceptions, including a 23-yard return for a touchdown on the opening play from scrimmage in the third quarter … True Freshman Scooby Wright started at outside linebacker and showed he his fall camp performances were no fluke as he collected six tackles and deflected the pass Bondurant ended up stepping in front of for the score … Arizona improved to 12-1 all-time against NAU as it won for the 11th-straight meeting.
The Coaches: Arizona - Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia '86), second year at Arizona (9-5) and 19th as a head coach overall (129-89-2). At Arizona, Rodriguez’s teams are 7-2 at Arizona Stadium, 1-3 on the road, 1-0 at neutral sites, 4-5 in Pac-12 games and 1-0 in bowl games (2012 Gildan New Mexico). Rodriguez was introduced as the 30th head coach of the UA football program on Nov. 22, 2011. He carries Division I records of 8-5 at Arizona, 60-26 at West Virginia (2001-2007) and 15-22 at Michigan (2008-10). He began his head coaching career at Salem University (W.Va.) in 1988 and then coached at Glenville State (W.Va.) from 1990-96. Rodriguez's West Virginia teams were Big East Champions in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007 while appearing in two BCS bowls, the 2005 Sugar Bowl with a victory over Georgia for an 11-1 record and a victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl to finish 10-2 shortly after Rodriguez had left for Michigan. His teams have appeared in bowls in eight of 11 seasons an FBS head coach …UNLV – Bobby Hauck (Montana ’88), fourth year at school (6-33) and 14th as a head coach overall (86-50). Prior to UNLV, Hauck spent the previous seven seasons as the record-setting head coach of the University of Montana where he compiled an overall record of 80-17, including leading the Grizzlies to three national championship games in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA).
Seeking No. 10: Second-year Head Coach Rich Rodriguez has led the Wildcats to a 9-5 record since taking over and is now within reach of joining only a handful of coaches to tally double-digit wins in their first 15 games coaching Arizona. Only one coach in the modern era has reached 10 wins and that honor goes to college football hall-of-famer Jim Young whose Wildcat squads were 12-3 after his first 15 tilts. Otherwise, Miles W. Casteel (1939-48) posted a 10-5 mark, G.A. “Tex” Oliver (1933-37) went 10-4-1 and J.F. “Pop” McKale registered an 11-4 record through the first 15 games.
DJ Turns Up the Volume: In his third career start, senior Daniel Jenkins starred for the Wildcats with 152 all-purpose yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jenkins ran 12 times or 139 yard games, including his 91-yard explosion in the second quarter that put his team up 14-0. The 91-yard rush ranks as the second-longest touchdown run in school history (third-longest for all runs) behind Trung Canidate’s 96-yarder against San Diego State in 1997 (Nic Grigsby 94-yard run to the 1-yard vs. NAU in 2009). Further, his 91-scoring jaunt tied with Arkansas State’s Michael Gordon (rush) and Central Florida’s Breshad Perriman for the longest play from scrimmage in the FBS on opening weekend. Jenkins also showed his versatility leading the team with three receptions for 13 yards, punctuated by an 11-yard touchdown reception to mark the Wildcats first score of the season.
Leaning on the Ground Game: Arizona became a dominant running team late last season and it showed it has the promise to be such a team again with 306 yards on the ground in the opener. Over the final four games a year ago, the Wildcats gained 1,246 rushing yards alone (more than the entire 2011 season total) for an average of 311.5 yards per game. The Wildcats now have four 300-yard rushing games in their last 12 contests, which is remarkable considering the program had gone 38-straight games since its previous such game (365 vs. NAU on Sept. 12, 2009). Senior Daniel Jenkins led the way last week with 139 yards, giving Arizona a 100-yard rusher in 11 of its last 13 games. In fact, Ka’Deem Carey (10 games), Daniel Jenkins (once) and Matt Scott (once) have combined for a dozen 100-yard rushing games the last two seasons.
QBs in a Rush: The two quarterbacks Arizona played against the Lumberjacks – B.J. Denker and Javelle Allen – both showed they are threats to run the football. Denker started and played into the fourth quarter, rolling up 71 rushing yards to go with his 87 markers through the air. Denker scored on a 30-yard keeper in the third quarter, which was Arizona’s longest run by a quarterback since Matt Scott took off for 32 yards against Washington on Oct. 23, 2010. Denker’s long scamper was overshadowed on quarter late. In the fourth period, Allen pulled the ball down and raced 61 yards for his first collegiate touchdown. Allen’s burst was the longest run for a Wildcat quarterback in over a decade dating to Ortege Jenkins’ 62-yard run as part of a 104-yard effort against UCLA on Oct. 28, 2000. However, Jenkins did not score on that play, but find paydirt on a 64-yard tote a season before against Oregon on Oct. 23, 1999.
Center of Attention: Junior college transfer Steven Gurrola started at center in his first game as a Wildcat, taking over for Kyle Quinn who had been a 22-game starter over the last two seasons before finishing his career at the New Mexico Bowl last December. Gurrola arrived this summer and was steady throughout camp. He was joined by veteran tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele (52 combined starts), senior guard Chris Putton (20 starts) and sophomore guard Cayman Bundage, who had one start a year ago as a true freshman. Gurrola fit in quite nicely with the group, helping pave the way for 306 rushing yards and no sacks allowed last Saturday against the Lumberjacks. First-year line coach Jim Michalczik had to be pleased with the combined effort, but surely sees some areas for improvement.
That’s All, Folks: Arizona’s offense only ran 47 offensive plays last Friday against Northern Arizona, a staggeringly low total compared to the 83.2 plays per game a year ago. It had been 84 games since the Wildcats last ran fewer than 50 plays in a game when they snapped the ball only 44 times against USC on Sept. 23, 2006. A few big plays (rushing touchdowns of 91, 61 and 11 yards) helped produce an 8.2 yards per play average that would have been second-highest for a game a year ago (11.0 vs. Colorado on Nov. 10).
Pitching Shutouts: For the second time in two seasons, Arizona shut out an opponent as the Lumberjacks were blanked last Friday. A year ago, the Wildcats rolled to a 56-0 victory over South Carolina State on Sept. 15. That had been Arizona’s first shutout in 52 games dating to a 70-0 rout of Idaho on Aug. 30, 2008. From there, it had been over a decade since the previous shutout which was on Sept. 14, 1996, in a 41-0 win against Illinois. The Wildcats were one of seven FBS teams to pitch a shutout the first week of the season.
Taking Turns: The Wildcats defense forced three Northern Arizona turnovers last Friday, including Tra’Mayne Bondurant’s interception returned 21 yards for a touchdown on the opening play of the second half. Bondurant later added a second interception and true freshman corner Devin Holiday picked off his first career pass in the second half to turn in a three-interception game for the first time since last Sept. 8 in a 59-38 romp over Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, the Wildcat offense secured the ball and did not have a turnover on the evening for just the second time in the Rodriguez era (also vs. Oklahoma State). In the end, it was a plus-three margin in the turnover department for the Wildcats, who have not had a positive turnover margin in a season since 2008. Last year, Arizona was minus-1 for the year with 28 turnovers and 27 takeaways.
Mr. Efficiency: The sample size remains small, but with two career starts and backup duty in five others B.J. Denker has proven to be an efficient weapon at the quarterback positions. He has yet to put up some of the gaudy numbers his predecessor Matt Scott did much of last season, but his steady play could produce some breakout games with more experience. A key is protecting the football and making smart decisions, something coaches will continue to stress moving forward. Here are Denker’s totals in his seven career games:
Comp-Att-INT Pass Yards TD Pct. Rush Att. Rush Yds. TD
34-50-1 346 4 68.0 34 145 2
Running Back Attack: The backfield tandem of Daniel Jenkins and Ka’Deem Carey is well known for its running abilities, but don’t sleep on those guys in the passing game. Jenkins was actually the top target last week with three receptions, including an 11-yard touchdown on the season-opening drive. Meanwhile, Carey was a sneaky weapon in the prolific passing attack a year ago, hauling in 36 catches for 303 yards and a touchdown. The junior has 506 yards and three scores in his first two seasons. Expect both players to see increased roles in the passing game this season.
Quick Strikes: Arizona opened the season with a methodical 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that took up the first 3:49 of the game. The rest of the way, the Wildcats did not waste time scoring points. The second score was Daniel Jenkins’ 91-yard run on the first play of a second quarter drive, needing only 14 seconds. The defense got in the action with a 1-play drive of its own when Tra’Mayne Bondurant’s pick-six came on the first play of the second half. Later, B.J. Denker capped a swift 3-play, 48-yard drive with a 30-yard scamper into the endzone after only 50 seconds. The final score also came on the third play of a drive when Javelle Allen’s 61-yard scoot capped off a 72-yard drive that consumed a lengthy 1:03 of clock in the fourth quarter.
Disciplined Start: While sloppy at times in the opener, Arizona was well-disciplined throughout. The offense did not turn the ball over and the Wildcats were flagged only two times for 30 yards in the game. The familiar early-season rustiness of procedure penalties and illegal substitutions was noticeably absent – a sign the coaching staff had player’s full attention throughout camp. A year ago, the Wildcats were 77th nationally with 55.1 penalty yards per game. Continuing to clean up that area will only allow for more success in 2013.
TFL Tally: Nine different defenders combined for 11 tackles for loss against the Lumberjacks, a sturdy group effort after the Wildcats never had more than eight stops behind the line in a game a year ago. In fact, Arizona had played 32 games since its last double-digit tackle-for-loss game at Washington State on Oct. 15, 2010. Leading the charge last week was senior lineman Sione Tuihalamaka and senior corner Shaquille Richardson, who each set career-bests with two tackles for loss. Junior “spur” Tra’Mayne Bondurant added one to go with his two interceptions, as did senior linebacker Marquis Flowers, who led the squad with 13 TFLs a year ago. Senior linemen Tevin Hood and Justin Washington also tallied their own TFLs. True freshman linebacker Scooby Wright registered his first tackle for loss, and his classmate Derrick Turituri recorded a sack in the fourth quarter. For good measure, Arizona was also credited with a “team” tackle for loss when a Lumberjack ran out of bounds behind the line.
The Road Ahead: Opening up a season with a convincing 35-0 victory is promising for any team, but Arizona knows tougher challenges remain starting with the first road trip of the year this weekend in Las Vegas. In fact, it begins a stretch of seven games that will have the Wildcats on the road for five games. Arizona will close non-conference play at home next week (Sept. 14 vs. UTSA), then have a bye week before going at Washington (Sept. 28) and at USC (Oct. 10). Then it’s a home tilt with Utah (Oct. 19) before hitting the road again for consecutive games at Colorado (Oct. 26) and at California (Nov. 2). Yes, that’s just two more home games between now and the second week of November. But, the Wildcats will close with three of their last four at home in November.
Sophomore Surge: Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez knows how to build a program. In simple terms, program-building starts with a firm foundation put in place in Year 1 and grows from there. His track record is one that has produced improvement in his second year at a school where players and coaches alike are fully bought into his program. Here are the first and second year records by school for Rodirguez-coached teams:
School Year 1 Year 2 Improvement
Glenville State 1-7-1 4-5-1 + 3 wins
West Virginia 3-8 9-4 + 6 wins
Michigan 3-9 5-7 + 2 wins
Arizona 8-5 ??? ???
An All-American Season: Running back Ka’Deem Carey broke out in a big way as a sophomore to lead the nation with 1,929 rushing yards. Along with his 24 total touchdowns, Carey earned the praise of experts across the country who voted him a consensus All-American. Here are some of the highlights of his 2012 season:
- Led the nation in both rushing yards (1,929) and yards per game (148.38). Became first Wildcat to lead the nation in rushing since Art Luppino in 1955 (also 1954).
- Finished the season with 303 rushing attempts for 1,929 yards (both single-season school records). The yardage total ranks as the fifth-most in Pac-12 single-season history.
- Set an Arizona program record with 23 rushing touchdowns.
- Led the Pac-12 with 10 100-yard rushing games and matched Trung Canidate (1999) for the school record for 100-yard games in a season.
- Finished the season with 2,248 all-purpose yards, falling one yard shy of Dennis Northcutt's single-season school record of 2,249 set in 1999.
- Carey finished the season with 24 total touchdowns to tie Art Luppino (1954) for the most individual touchdowns in school single-season history.
Bookend Tackles: Junior tackles Fabbians Ebbele and Mickey Baucus account for 52 of Arizona’s 75 career starts along the offensive line. With each registering 26 consecutive starts, the bookend duo was a significant part of the Wildcats’ record-breaking offensive in 2013. They helped pave the way 227.8 rushing yards per game and the offense yielded only 18 sacks in 13 games while tallying 298.4 passing yards per game. Both Ebbele and Baucus are penciled in as starters at right and left tackle, respectively, for this week’s opener.
Mr. Versatility: One of Arizona’s offensive leaders is the ever versatile Chris Putton, a fifth-year senior who has mastered all five positions on the offensive line. Putton doesn’t claim a natural position – he willing says he will play wherever coaches need him – but his skills are perhaps best suited at guard where he has made 20 career starts. In a pinch, he can slide out to tackle if needed behind starters Fabbians Ebbele and Mickey Baucus, or take the controls at center. His experience and versatility will pay dividends in the trenches this season.
Offensive Trends: Arizona has boasted one of the Pac-12’s top offenses in recent years, but head coach Rich Rodriguez accelerated the development in his first season. The Wildcats have shown steady improvement in both total offense and scoring per game over the last four seasons. Here’s a look with the NCAA and Pac-12 statistical ranks in parenthesis:
Year Tot. Offense (NCAA/Pac-12) Scoring (NCAA/Pac-12)
2012 526.2 ypg (7th/2nd) 38.2 ppg (15th/3rd)
2011 465.3 ypg (16th/3rd) 30.8 ppg (38th/6th)
2010 439.4 ypg (24th/3rd) 28.2 ppg (53rd/5th)
2009 384.5 ypg (58th/6th) 27.4 ppg (61st/5th)
Senior Encore: Arizona welcomes back senior wide receiver/tight end Terrence Miller for a fifth season. The Moreno Valley, Calif., native was granted a medical hardship waiver in the spring and his return to the Wildcats gives Arizona a proven target in the offense and a leader on and off the field. Miller, who also received his degree in the spring, caught 13 passes for 143 yards and two scores in four games last year despite battling a series of injuries. His season was cut short for good after sustaining an injury on a touchdown at Stanford last October. Now healthy again, Miller can play any of UA’s receiver positions in the slot or on the outside. He will also put his hand down as a tight end, so expect the Wildcats to move him around early and often. He had one catch for 14 yards against NAU.
Defensive Development: What a difference a year makes for defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. In his first season implementing the 3-3-5 stack at Arizona, Casteel inherited one of the thinnest and youngest defenses in the nation evidenced by more than half of his depth chart comprising freshman or sophomore. This year, things shift in his favor with more depth and more experience. In fact, Wildcat defenders combined for 210 career starts entering this season paced by senior lineman Sione Tuihalamaka and senior corner Shaquille Richardson each chipping in 24 starts apiece (both started vs. NAU). Senior linebacker Marquis Flowers (started vs. NAU) had 23 starts to his credit and his fellow backer Jake Fischer (started vs. NAU) had 21 of his own. Plus, the Wildcats feel they added talent and depth in their freshman class, and linebacker starter Scooby Wright earned a start as a true freshman last week.
Desert Bloom: It was this time a year ago when Marquis Flowers was shifted from safety to linebacker to add depth at a position of need. Now, 12 months later, Flowers figures to be one of the top linebackers in the Pac-12 Conference. As a junior, he was second on the squad with exactly 100 tackles and led the team with 13 tackles for loss and a team-high 5.5 sacks. He also proved to have a nose for the football, intercepting three pass, forcing three fumbles and recovering another. A full year of experience and an offseason to study the defense in the film room should benefit Flowers even more, and he opened the season with six tackles, including one for loss, last week.
Scooby (Can) Doo: Despite a veteran starting unit on the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats had a new face in their starting lineup against NAU. True freshman Scooby Wright earned a start at outside linebacker and turned in quite a performance in his debut. Wright was all over the field helping in the run game and pressuring the passer as the Wildcats shut out the Lumberjacks. In his first collegiate game, Wright finished with six tackles, including one for loss, and tipped the pass that Tra’Mayne Bondurant stepped in front of before returning it 21 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Wright was the only underclassmen among the Wildcats’ defensive starters.
Tackling Machine: Senior middle linebacker Jake Fischer returns as one of the top tacklers in the Pac-12. A year ago, Fischer led Arizona with 119 stops and ranked third in the conference with 9.2 tackles per game. A physical, yet slightly undersized player, Fischer uses his high football IQ to put himself in position to make plays. He had 6.5 tackles for loss, four fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and three passes defended a season ago as he returned to full strength after missing the 2011 campaign with an ACL injury. His perseverance paid off as he was a Pac-12 honorable mention selection in 2012 and could contend for higher honors this season. Fischer is on the Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List and the Bednarik Award Watch List. He turned in a game-high seven tackles last week against NAU.
Happy Holiday: Playing in his first collegiate game, true freshman Devin Holiday wasted no time collecting his first career interception. The cornerback picked off Kyren Poe in the third quarter and returned it 10 yards, and he also added a pair of tackles in the game. It was an impressive debut for the natural cover man and it reminded some of former Wildcat and NFL veteran Antoine Cason’s first game against the Lumberjacks. But Cason set a lofty standard when he picked off a pass, forced two fumbles and had a game-high 13 tackles in 2004. For now, Holiday will gladly take his opening effort and work to earn more playing time as he battles with veterans Shaquille Richardson, Derrick Rainey and Jonathan McKnight.
Scholarships Earned: Several walk-ons earned the praise of head coach Rich Rodriguez, who rewarded them with scholarships this offseason. Nose guard Tevin Hood, linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson and receiver Johnny Jackson earned scholarships in the spring, while running back Terris Jones and receiver Trevor Ermisch were put on scholarship last week. Rodriguez values a strong walk-on program and benefitted such a program himself. At West Virginia, Rodriguez started as a walk-on in 1981 and became a three-year letter winner as a defensive back from 1982-84.
Gridiron Graduates: Eight Wildcats have earned their degrees from the University of Arizona, a tally that ranks fifth nationally for FBS programs. Included are running backs Daniel Jenkins and Kylan Butler, receivers Terrence Miller and Richard Morrison, defensive backs Derrick Rainey and Justin Samuels, offensive lineman Eric Bender-Ramsey and defensive lineman Sione Tuihalamaka.
Up Next: Arizona will return home to close out its non-conference slate against the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) on Saturday, Sept. 14. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. (MST) with a live television broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.